Emory Bryan, The News on 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- The Tulsa City Council has begun a formal investigation into statements made by Terry Simonson, the Chief of Staff to Mayor Dewey Bartlett.

The council is looking into Simonson's claim that grant money to pay police officer's salaries could not be used until the officers were laid off.

The Justice Department, which supplied the grant money, has no such requirement. The distinction led to the city laying off more officers than were necessary, then rehiring 35 of them a month later.

The city paid out severance, vacation and comp time to the 35 officers while waiting for the grant money to be approved.

Simonson told the council the city couldn't ask for the grant money until a "triggering event" - the layoff - had occurred.

The Justice Department only required notice that layoffs were imminent.

Three deputy police chiefs sent a letter to Interim Chief Chuck Jordan claiming they told Simonson about the distinction long before the layoff occurred.

The letter spurred the council to launch a formal investigation into what Simonson was told and when. The Council met Thursday to discuss the parameters of their investigation, which could include gathering city emails about the grant money, and interviewing witnesses.

The Tulsa City Council decided to hire a special investigator and spend up to $6,000 on the investigation.  All nine councilors will serve on the committee handling the investigation. 

Council Chair Rick Westcott said the council would likely hire a retired police officer, from an outside jurisdiction, and expected a report within six weeks